Does being busy help you make more rational decisions?


Consumers often face emotion‐laden choices involving conflicting goals of personal importance (e.g., safety). Research suggests that consumers cope with the negative emotion associated with these choices by avoiding certain behaviors, in particular attribute trade‐off making. This research investigates a factor that moderates these coping effects. Four experiments show that simple cognitive load can make consumers less averse to making attribute trade‐offs. This research demonstrates, counterintuitively, that a reduction of cognitive resources through increased load can result in more normative decision behavior. Load apparently disinhibits trade‐off making by disrupting consumers’ abilities to consider relevant self goal information and the negative emotional consequences of trading off something of personal importance, thereby reducing consumers’ need to cope.

Source: The Rationalizing Effects of Cognitive Load on Emotion‐Based Trade‐off Avoidance, Journal of Consumer Research, June 2004